Camping in Cappadocia, Turkey - April 2017
Our setup for The Big Trip 2017 worked pretty well. It was not perfect but then no one set up ever is. Having Lara the trailer allowed us to set up base camps from where we could explore and see more of the area without the need to pack up every day. It allowed us to pack more luxury items whilst leaving the rear of Wilson relatively clear of equipment.
So setting up base camps is pretty much what we did throughout the 8 months trip. But we also found that the trailer restricted us in where we could access or where we could free camp for instance. We had to be aware of how we would get out whenever we took a dirt track or side road. Turning around can be difficult and reversing any distance was difficult at best and if off road almost impossible. Where in a Defender on its own reversing long distances is a much simpler prospect. Tiny tight lanes made even unhitching and swinging the trailer around difficult.
Coupled with that to put it simply we had over packed! The additional space offered by having the trailer we had filled and pretty soon after the trip started we realised we were carrying too much and began to offload what we could as we travelled.
As the trip progressed the extra weight and strain of pulling the trailer took a toll. Fuel costs were higher, ferry costs were more expensive and buying insurance along the way was more expensive with a trailer.
So towards the end of our trip, and as the weather changed to cooler evenings, we both started considering how we could improve our set up. We were loathed to say good bye to the trailer however setting up base camps in Europe was simple and easy. Leaving a trailer base camp in more remote countries was not really going to be an option and we had visions of heading to Mongolia next. These reasons coupled with the additional costs helped make the decision that we would not take the trailer on future Overland trips.
Pop Up Roof Defender 110's - Camping in the Western Sahara, Morocco
We did consider starting from scratch and purchasing a bigger Defender 110, and then having that fitted out and possibly getting an Alu Cab Icarus pop up roof on it. Other Overlanders we met on the road had this and we were very impressed. However current prices for a 110 Defender in the UK are astronomical with no guarantees on reliability or history. Secondly for a good one we would be looking at around the £10K mark. Fitting out and an Alu Cab Icarus pop up top would put about another £15K on to that price. And then not knowing the history of the new defender would also mean a lot of maintenance costs just to bring it up to a point we were comfortable with. So it was that we stayed with Wilson. We have owned him for over 10 years, we know his history and we know exactly what has been changed and what we can expect out of him.
So with that decision made we set about deciding how we could pull it off with just a Defender 90 SWB. Firstly any exploring would require setting up and taking down the tent. So ease of setting up camp and taking it down became something we had to consider and whist our Hannibal Tent was extremely comfortable, stood up to awful weather well and could be fitted to Wilson, the time to set up was an issue for us especially if having to do it every day or in poor weather.
First on the list was a hard shell roof top tent. There are many options available from the Maggiolina, to the Alu Cab to the Tuff Trek Overland Series which all have in common that they can be set up quickly and taken down quickly which is exactly what we were looking for. We chose the Tuff Trek Overland Series with setting up counted in seconds and take down marginally more. It was lower profile than most other hard shell RTT's which we also liked.
There were a number of reasons for our choice. Reputation of Tuff Trek products, multiple options for colder climates, optional annexe and as we were dealing with Dara at Tuff Trek in the UK we could go and physically look at the tent rather than just an online photo.
Secondly we wanted to utilise to the maximum the available space in the Defender 90 so it was both accessible and practical. This may sound straight forward but like the requirement for quick set up of the tent we also did not want to be pulling boxes in and out day after day. This is ok on a short trip of a few weeks in good weather. But on a longer trip with variable weather this becomes very much a tedious chore.
New fridge and storage lockers
We also wanted an option to sleep inside whether for stealth camping, extreme weather or just security so we needed to find a way to install a sleeping platform. So off we went to speak with Errol at Coastline Campers in Canterbury. He has fitted out a number of 110's but our Defender 90 was a first for him. Explaining our plans and requirements he went about bringing our ideas to life.
The system we now have has 3 set up modes.
Normal Everyday Mode – used day to day.
Stealth Camping Mode – comprises full sleeping platform and used when there is a need to sleep inside.
Inclement Weather Mode – comprises a table between the two front seats allowing coffee cups or watching movies on the laptop whilst sitting inside and used when the outside weather is cold or wet but we are still sleeping in the RTT.
We added an Ebersparcher diesel heater for use if we are stuck inside and to heat the annexe when fitted. 2 x side lockers were installed to increase our available storage and try to keep dirtier items such as tools, lubricants and bbq outside. A 240W solar system was added with the panels mounted on the tent and a Victron MPPT Controller with Blue tooth link to our mobile phones for monitoring.
Currently we are personalising the setup, sorting out homes for equipment, spare parts, clothes etc and making it useable before we head off for a shakedown trip of the North Coast 500 route by the end of March.
Personalising the setup